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Banks Lead Stocks Higher Midday        12/12 11:19

   Banks are leading U.S. stocks higher in midday trading Tuesday as the 
Federal Reserve meets to discuss interest rates and the economy. 

   (AP) -- Banks are leading U.S. stocks higher in midday trading Tuesday as 
the Federal Reserve meets to discuss interest rates and the economy. The 
central bank is expected to raise interest rates for the third time this year 
on Wednesday. Banks benefit from higher interest rates because they can charge 
more to lend money. The gains were broad, and utilities were the only laggard 
among the 11 sectors in the S&P 500 index. Crude oil prices headed lower. 
Bitcoin futures slipped on their second day of trading.

   KEEPING SCORE: The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 7 points, or 0.3 
percent, to 2,667 as of noon Eastern Time. The Dow Jones industrial average 
gained 131 points, or 0.5 percent, to 24,517. The Nasdaq added 8 points, or 0.1 
percent, to 6,883. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks picked up 4 
points, or 0.3 percent, to 1,523. The S&P 500 and the Dow closed at all-time 
highs Monday.

   FEDERAL RESERVE: Investors were looking ahead to Wednesday, when the Federal 
Reserve is expected to raise short-term interest rates by 0.25 percent. While 
inflation has remained low, the central bank has seen a path to gradually raise 
rates as the economy and labor market have strengthened. The European Central 
Bank and the Bank of England will have policy announcements on Thursday, but 
neither is expected to change rates, leaving the focus on their economic 

   MALL MOVERS: Several shopping mall owners were trading higher after 
Australian company Westfield agreed to be bought by France's Unibail-Rodamco 
for $15.7 billion. Macerich gained $2.72, or 4.3 percent, to $66.01, while 
Simon Property Group rose $2.73, or 1.7 percent, to $164.99. GGP picked up 27 
cents, or 1.2 percent, to $23.66.

   NOT INTERESTED: Comcast rose 2.1 percent after the Wall Street Journal 
reported that the cable TV and entertainment company was no longer in talks to 
buy parts of 21st Century Fox. Comcast added 82 cents to $39.26. The Journal 
also reported that Disney is in talks with Fox and that a deal could be 
announced this week.

   BETTING ON FINANCIALS: Banks and other financial stocks accounted for many 
of the market's gains. Charles Schwab rose 89 cents, or 1.8 percent, to $51.61.

   ULTRA HIP: Urban Outfitters gained 3.4 percent after the retailer issued a 
positive update on its fourth-quarter sales. The stock added $1.10 to $33.37.

   UNDER SCRUTINY: Edison International slumped 6.5 percent after the utility 
said it believes authorities are looking into the possibility that wildfires in 
California started at one of its facilities. Edison shares slid $4.77 to $68.21.

   DISAPPOINTING RESULTS: Casey's General Stores declined 8.7 percent after its 
second-quarter profit fell short of analysts' estimates. The stock shed $10.51 
to $110.74.

   ENERGY: Energy prices were headed lower. Benchmark U.S. crude fell 29 cents 
to $57.70 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, the 
international standard for oil, shed 87 cents, or 1.3 percent, to $63.82 per 
barrel in London.

   CURRENCIES: The dollar rose to 113.66 Japanese yen from 113.52 yen late 
Monday. The euro fell to $1.1729 from $1.1786.

   BITCOIN: Bitcoin futures were down $175, or 0.9 percent, to $18,370 on the 
Cboe Futures Exchange. The futures allow investors to make bets on the future 
price of bitcoin. The average price of an actual bitcoin was $17,148 at midday 
on private exchanges, according to Coindesk. The price of the digital currency 
has soared this year, having begun 2017 under $1,000.

   BOND YIELDS: Bond prices fell. The yield on the 10-year Treasury rose to 
2.41 percent from 2.39 percent late Monday.

   MARKETS OVERSEAS: Major stock indexes in Europe rose. Germany's DAX gained 
0.5 percent, while the CAC 40 of France added 0.8 percent. Britain's FTSE 100 
rose 0.6 percent. Earlier in Asia, Japan's Nikkei 225 index lost 0.3 percent, 
while South Korea's Kospi dropped 0.4 percent. The Hang Seng index in Hong Kong 
shed 0.6 percent. The S&P ASX 200 added 0.3 percent. India's Sensex dropped 0.7 
percent. Other regional markets were mostly lower.


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